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Dead Battery - Jump Start - White Smoke!


kjmclark

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A demon has possessed my Ranger. At least that's my first guess.

So my poor new-driver daughter took our 96 supercab to some school thing, and forgot to turn off the lights. Oops. She gives us a call when it won't start, and we come over and jump it. I connect hot on our Subaru to hot on the Ranger's battery, negative on the Subie to the radiator top support on the Ranger. I get some spark on that, so I think I'm OK.

I get in the truck, have my wife rev the car, and it's just not enough juice to move the starter. Barely revving at all. I decide to just leave it for a sec to put a little juice in the battery.

Then I see a little wisp of white smoke coming from between the dash and the steering wheel. Oh crap. Not good. I try to start it again - nothing, but the smoke is getting a bit thicker. So I shut off the truck (had the ignition 'on' between start attempts), and open the doors to air it out. The smoke stops coming out.

So I try to start it again (still weak), and I notice that the smoke comes out again when I have the ignition to 'on' or 'start'. So I leave it off. The jumping is just not working right, so I go move the negative. Different place, still have sparks, still no joy. It really should be working by now, so I move it to the ground point on the radiator support, just in front of the battery. Starts right up on the first try.

So I know the smoke was bad, but everything seems OK. Truck runs, dome light works, headlights work, no problems. A couple of days later I go to drive the truck in the dark, and realize I have no dash gauges light. And the ABS light keeps coming on. WTF? I look online and find some fuses to check, but they're all fine. I go back and check some more, and find that #3 on the inside box - Parking lights - is blown. I plug in a spare and it blows right away. Aha.

But this morning I'm driving my son to school (just found the blown fuse late last night), the truck stalls at a stop (it's a stick, I just didn't rev it enough), I restart it - And the freaking theft alarm goes off! :shok: WTF?!? And I can't get the stupid thing to shut off. And I just put a LOUD horn on the truck last spring.:eek: Of course, my middle-schooler now wants *nothing to do with me* as my possessed truck is screaming for all to hear that his dad is a complete clown.:icon_twisted: I stopped in a church parking lot next to the school and he high-tails it away from me as I'm trying to shut the stupid truck up. I finally pulled the negative from the battery (three times! - a little longer each time) and the stupid thing gave up. Drove it home with no problems.

So, I'm going to start digging around tonight. I figure there's most likely a bare wire under the dash somewhere, or the dimmer module, or the headlight switch is cooked. But the theft alarm thing has me wondering if we didn't blow something more important. I have the Haynes and Ford 96 Ranger 'Electrical and Vacuum Troubleshooting Manual' but I figured I'd check with the experts first. Any suggestions what to look for?:dunno:
 


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RonD

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It reads like all the power going from good battery to bad battery was going through a small wire or relay under the dash.

This was probably from using the rad support or other body ground.
All vehicle wiring varies, but one thing they all have in common is that the start motor will have the biggest amp draw so will have the wiring to support that amp draw.
So when jumping you need to use the block or metal accessory bracket bolted to the block.
Other "grounds" may not have the the ability to carry the amps needed.


You will have to get under the dash and find the source of the "magic smoke", it should be visible or feelable.
Because electricity always finds the least resistant path, the smoking part "was" the easiest path at first, but as it heated up the electricity may have flowed through other parts, causing the other issues.
Look at the ground points, that's where the electricity was flowing trying to get to Battery negative, there should be a few on the firewall drivers side, feel each wire up as much as you can follow, since the rad support is the headlight ground check the light switch wiring.
 
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kjmclark

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Yeah, that's about what I thought. Honestly, I thought to myself when I was hunting for a place to put the negative clamp, "Supposed to be to the engine block - where the heck in here could I possibly clamp to the engine? Geez, I can barely see the thing with all the vacuum lines and stuff in the way. Besides these darn clamps need something substantial to grab onto, and there's nothing in sight like that. Well, as long as I clamp it to the body somewhere, they're all supposed to be bolted together, right?"

Um, no, not so much.:sad:

Am I likely to have cooked the GEM? I just can't think of a reason the ABS light would be on. I could just see going through half the wiring in the truck, replacing four wires, and *still* have problems now. :annoyed:
 

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Not sure about the wiring, but the alarm...I just bought a 96 for parts and it has a key fob with buttons on it...well, I tried pushing the buttons to see what they do and then I used the spare key...alarm goes off and just about drives me crazy because the dang thing won't shut off...

But I figured it out eventually...the buttons on the key fob will enable or disable the alarm...if you push the disable it simply won't go off regardless of what key you use...but I now only use the one with the button fob because if it ever goes off again and I don't have the key the only way to shut it down is to pull the battery cable off...

I hope your son forgives and forgets the matter...eventually...lol
 

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Alternator is often at the top of an engine, its bracket is a good high amp ground point.

The engine block and transmission are isolated from frame on rubber mounts.
Body and frame are also isolated by rubber grommets.
The bolts often provide a poor, high resistance, ground at best, because of paint and plating.

There are ground straps to connect all these, but they are for low amps, and are often left off after work is done.

The reason for hooking up 1 jumper cable to the block or "ground" is because that is suppose to be the last cable you clamp on, so will be the cable that will generate a spark, because battery voltages will not be the same.
Vented batteries produce hydrogen gas, a spark could ignite this gas, cause battery to explode, so it was best to connect the last cable away from the battery.

Newer batteries are sealed for the most part so exploding batteries are not heard of much any more.

And the last cable hooked up, to the block/ground, doesn't have to be on the vehicle with the dead battery, it could be on the jumping vehicle, which ever is easier.

Also the jumping vehicle can be running to charge up the dead battery, but you should turn it off when trying to start the dead engine.
When cranking you get that 150amp draw, which could fry the jumping vehicle's alternator or regulator if it is running.
So best just to rely on the good battery to try and start the dead one.
 
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kjmclark

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So, what did I fry? As far as I can tell, the headlight switch is half shot. The headlight part is fine, but when I switch it to running lights, I'm getting no continuity at all. I think that means it's cooked. The dimmer seems OK. I get a decreasing resistance on that as I roll the dial up, and in the locked up position I get continuity on the two big posts at the bottom.

But what I *really* fried is a black/white striped wire that goes to the ignition switch, through a plug, and up into the dash behind the tachometer somewhere. That's got that insulation-partly-melted off look the length of the thing. The wire itself has a part number on it - F57F-19A438-BB, that doesn't seem to match modern Ford part numbers. The only hit on it at all on Bing is for some Argentinian "Guspamar" website, (www.guspamar.com.ar), that looks like an Argentine Motorcraft site. That says: INTERRUPTOR ANTIRROBO DE IGNICION, and Reemplazos F5TZ/19A438/A. That number is really close to wire pairs on eBay that say they're "IGNITION LOCK ANTI-THEFT SWITCH ASSEMBLY". So, looks to me like I fried part of the anti-theft system, though I didn't see any of those fuses blown. I'll have to look again.

But what I *really* *really* fried was a ground wire that connects to a plug right next to the cooked anti-theft wire. That ground wire is so fried that it's completely melted through. Just two disconnected pieces of wire. The same wire on the other side of the plug is fine.

So. How stupid would I be if I temporarily spliced in a different wire for the burned out ground, and for the cooked anti-theft wire, until I can properly replace them? I figure at worst, I won't be able to replace the cooked wire far enough back to help, and I'll be still in the same place as I am now. I've already ordered the replacement light switch, but I figure it won't hurt anything to just put the old one back in for now. It at least gives me headlights.

Ron - so I *could* connect it battery to battery? These are flooded lead acid DieHard batteries. They're not really that sealed, are they? & I should shut off the jumping car? I thought you needed that on because the dead battery is going to be sucking most of your current while you're trying to start the dead car. My concern with clamping onto part of the alternator was that I could cook the alternator. I suppose I'll be a little more clear on what to clamp to / what not to clamp to next time...

Mark - if this truck ever had a key fob, I never got it. But I bought it almost dead four years ago from a near-junker dealer in Detroit. I've been slowly building it back up to good shape again. Or so I thought...
 
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RonD

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You are clamping to the alternator "bracket", so same as clamping to block, or A/C bracket, it won't effect the alternator one way or the other.

A running engine gives you 1 extra volt, so not worth the risk of fried electronics.
Good battery has 12.6volts
Running engine with good battery has 13.6volts.

Charging the dead battery first with a running engine will cause voltage to go up to 14.6volts, voltage regulator will be almost maxed out on the running alternator, this is OK for a few minutes(assuming good jumper cable connection points)

When you try to start dead car, the starter motor will cause system voltage to drop to 10-11volts, this will max out jumping vehicles alternator/regulator(trying to put out 15+volts), which "should" be fine, but............

And with alternator trying to pump out 15+volts, when you stop cranking dead engine(or engine starts) that 15volts runs through all the electronics on the running car until regulator can bring it back to 13volts, which "should" also be OK, but...........

My opinion is it just ain't worth it, if 12volts won't start the dead vehicle then 13volts won't help.

And conversely, a dead battery could have been caused by a bad alternator/regulator, these can fail and output 20volts or more, which is what caused the battery to fail, if you jump a vehicle with this condition and it starts, and your key is on, with or without engine running, that higher voltage could do the jumping vehicle some damage, with key off you have a little protection.



Yes, replace the wires if you know where they go, just make sure the wire you are splicing to but can't see isn't also "bare".

Electricity flows on the path of least resistance, which is why if you remove the ground from a tail light a front parking light might start to glow, lol.

So if a major ground wire is lost(melted) then it can cause a whole host of issues as electricity flows through other wires to find a ground.
 
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kjmclark

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So the kicker is that this Ford manual is great for other things, but seems to be trash for this problem. It doesn't cover the anti-theft system wiring, except here-and-there mentions of this-wire-if-no-anti-theft, that-wire-if-anti-theft. But the actual wire that's damaged the most doesn't seem to exist in this manual. There's a great diagnostic chart for the light switch, but next to nothing on the dimming module "refer to "Section 13-00 of the Service Manual" - why is the diagnostic for this electrical part not in the electrical manual???

So as far as I can tell from their manual, the wire that cooked doesn't exist, there is no ground in the location where the wire melted through, and if that's supposed to be a fusible link, I haven't found it on a diagram yet.

I suspect that I can't find stuff on the anti-theft system because it's all supposed to be a big secret so thieves can't steal the trucks as easily. That was probably a good reason a decade ago. Coming up on the 20-year mark, it all seems kind of dumb. I'd really love to completely get rid of every part of the anti-theft system at this point. :annoyed:
 

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I'd been thinking about disabling this also and found some information on it in the on-line repair manual...under accessories...

http://www.therangerstation.com/forums/showthread.php?t=319

Tried to find electrical schematics and they may be there but couldn't find anything specific...but it does go into a bit about remove/install and has diagrams of the module that you want to yank...I'd be more concerned about disabling the unit only to find out the engine won't start without it...
 

kjmclark

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OK, I'm pretty sure that burned up wire under the dash was a fusible link. It looks just like this:
- at least it looks like the "after" picture.

But none of these diagrams show a fusible link under the dash. I've got the Haynes and Chilton manuals, and the Ford electrical troubleshooting manual, and nothing says anything about a fusible link under the dash. So I really have no idea what size fusible link to get here. I suppose I'll have to get a few different sizes, size up the wire going into that link, and choose based on the gauge of that wire?

On the other hand, I opened up that dimmer module, and found two solder connections that were disconnected, and one that was iffy. Fixed the soldering, and that ($171!) module is working just fine now. Whew. I took some pictures I'll try to post later.
 

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I can not recalled ever finding a fusible link inside the passenger compartment on any vehicle.
It would be a bad idea because of the smoke and possible fire issue.

They are used in engine compartments, but usually only on high amp circuits, like alternator outputs.
Fusible links are not with other wires either, they are on there own and put in places where they are not likely to short out if insulation melts and/or wire separates.
A fusible link is used when there might be spikes in amperage, a regular fuse would blow, as it should, a fusible link would heat up then cool down if it was just a spike in amps, not a short.

A fusible link will be a smaller gauge wire than the wire it is connected to, and it will for sure be connected to another wire with a splice, and the fusible link wire will be short, 6" at most.
So if you did have a fusible link under the dash only a short section of wire, under 6" would be effected and you would feel/see the splice to the bigger wire, splice wouldn't melt or come off the bigger gauge wire end.
 
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kjmclark

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Yeah, I know. I'll have to take a picture before I replace it.

"A fusible link will be a smaller gauge wire than the wire it is connected to"
- Check. The wire it connected to looked to be around 16 gauge, and this thing looked to be around 18 gauge.

", and it will for sure be connected to another wire with a splice, "
- Almost check on that one. It goes directly into a connector, and that connector plugs into another one with the main wire. The other end of this thin, burned out wire has a ring connector, exactly as shown in the picture. The wire is burned through almost exactly as shown in the picture.

"and the fusible link wire will be short, 6" at most."
- Check. It's about 4" long from the connector to the bolt-down.

"So if you did have a fusible link under the dash only a short section of wire, under 6" would be effected and you would feel/see the splice to the bigger wire, it wouldn't melt or come off the bigger gauge wire end. "
- Check. The bigger gauge wire it plugs into looks completely unaffected, unlike the white/black anti-theft wire going to the ignition switch. The connector that this wire uses is physically right next to the connector for the anti-theft system wires going to the ignition switch.

I'll take some pictures and post them. I have no idea what was going on with this wire, because, like I said, I can't find any grounds or fusible links in the wiring diagrams I have, but that's sure what this burned out piece of wire looks like.
 

RonD

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Boy that sure sounds like a fusible link, and inside the cab................I guess maybe the high amp ground passing was thought of and this was added, so would not be in the manual but as an addendum for that year.

Maybe a later model year manual would have it listed.

You should replace it with another fusible link, they are less than $4
 

kjmclark

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Pictures

Said I'd try to put up some pictures, so here we go.

This one is the wire that burned through under the dash:


So the bolt right in the middle of the picture is where this ground/fusible link connects to the dash support frame. The wire goes to the left, then down, then back up (in the picture). The other end is coming out of the connector at the bottom-middle. You can see what's left of the insulation sticking straight out of the connector, and what's left of the wire heading to the right. The yellow wrap goes around all of the wires heading up to the ignition switch, except the two on the right, which are part of the anti-theft system.
 

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This one shows some of the damage to that anti-theft system wire. It looks like that all the way up to the ignition switch, but doesn't seem to have burned through anywhere.
 


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